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Normandy Road Trip

This Normandy road trip itinerary captures the rugged beauty of the Normandy coast. The sweeping coastline of white, limestone cliffs extends for a length of 130 kilometres, overlooking the English Channel. It is interspersed with mostly inaccessible, pebbly beaches and breath-taking seascapes that have long inspired painters, composers and poets.

Rich in history and beauty, Normandy is frequently remembered for Omaha Beach and other important locations of the WWII D-Day Landings, the largest seaborne invasion in history.  However, there are many feathers in the hat of Normandy. The province claims recognition for being at the heart of the Impressionistic movement. Famous artists and writers such as Claude Monet, Eugène Boudin, Georges Braque, Guy de Maupassant and Maurice Leblanc, have all called Normandy home.

Nature itself was the inspiration of many of these famous works and we understand why. This majestic Alabaster Coast of Normandy held us in awe as we were rewarded time and again, with its sheer grandness, utter beauty and complete tranquillity.

Leaving Brittany, in western France, and continuing on our motorhome travels in France, we head further north to begin our Normandy road trip. And what better place to start, than at the isle of Mont-Saint-Michel.

Paris to Normandy – Travel Options

1) By Car – a short 4-hour drive from Paris will place you right at the doorstep of Le Mont-Saint-Michel.

See Rental Cars Connect for great car hire options.

2) By Train – a 2 hour 50 min train journey to Villedieu-les-Poëles followed by a 45 min ride by bus to Le Mont-Saint-Michel.

You can book both train and bus tickets through SNCF (France’s National Rail network provider).

Normandy Road Trip Map

Five Days Through Normandy

Normandy Road Trip Day 1: Le Mont-Saint-Michel

Le Mont-saint-Michel, Normandy road trip

Le Mont-Saint-Michel – love at first sight!

Le Mont-Saint-Michel, dominated by its imposing medieval monastery, has long been a place of pilgrimage. With roots back to the 8th Century, Le Mont-Saint-Michel is most recognisable by its magnificent Benedictine abbey occupying the highest ground on this tiny island. Other grand buildings surround the abbey, all vying for space on this tiny, tidal island.

Lying about one kilometre off the French mainland, at the mouth of the Couesnon River, access to the island as only at low tide via the surrounding mud-flats. Luckily, a long bridge extends to the island which allows year-round access. You also have the option to hire a travel guide for this walking tour of the mud-flats to provide expert advice in avoiding stepping into the soft sand. When the tide comes in, it does so quickly and can have a maximum tidal shift of up to fifteen metres.

You can get a better idea of this amazing place by taking a look at this short clip below.

The Mont-Saint-Michel website offers information on tides, walking tours and opening times.

Once you reach the island, the entrance is through the huge iron portico and is free.  However, you do need to pay an entrance fee if you want to enter the Benedictine Abbey. You may just choose to spend the time wandering the boutiques, museums and medieval houses and gaze out to admire the grand views offered from the many different places around the island.

Le Mont-saint-Michel, Normandy road trip

The grand entrance to Le Mont-Saint-Michel, definitely a highlight of this Normandy road trip

Normandy Road Trip Day 2: Saint-Fraimbault

The floral village of Saint-Fraimbault, consistently wins the award of ‘four flowers’ in the annual,  ‘Village Fleuri’ (‘Villages in Bloom’) in which towns throughout France are awarded from one to four flowers, with four being the highest accolade. It was a worthwhile detour (before continuing our Normandy road trip north) to a village that is a consistent high achiever with the four flower award since 1965.

We visited in Spring and were greeted with an abundance of daffodils and cherry blossoms. For more information on this pretty part of Normandy, have a look at the Normandy Tourist information site.

St Fraimbault, Normandy road trip

Saint-Fraimbault’s trail along the river in Normandy

When you are all flowered out, you can enjoy the village 3-hectare lake which has leisure activities, such as paddle boats, fishing and picnic areas.

St Fraimbault autumn colours on the trees, Normandy road trip

 Saint-Fraimbault’s autumn colours

Normandy Road Trip Day 3: Cap d’Antifer

Our first real taste of the beauty of a Normandy coastline was overnighting at Cap d’Antifer. With a lone lighthouse and stunning sheer, white limestone cliffs, Cap d’Antifer is nothing short of spectacular. Grassy paths follow the clifftops and lead you past old war-time bunkers. Here, it is definitely an even mix of beauty and serenity. Front row seats at the cliff tops give you the perfect vantage point to watch the setting sun.

A distinctive landmark is the 38m high bright, white coloured, octagonal-shaped Cap d’Antifer lighthouse. Originally built in 1894, it was bombed in 1944 then re-built 1949. A free campsite is located right outside the gates of the lighthouse. Close on sunset, the automated started its own light show, casting its light to sea as it had done for so many years before.

Cap d’Antifer

Cap d’Antifer, Normandy

Nearby cliffs of Cap d’Antifer

Nearby cliffs of Cap d’Antifer, Normandy road trip

Treated to a dynamite Cap d’Antifer sunset

What a sunset, Cap d’Antifer on our Normandy Road Trip

 Cap d’Antifer lighthouse beaming its light at night

Cap d’Antifer lighthouse, Normandy

Normandy Road Trip Day 4: Étretat

Famous for its limestone arches and the ‘Needle’, or Aiguille, this particular part of the Normandy coastline abounds with spectacular scenery. If you look closely at the needle you may see what many claim to see – the head of an elephant dipping its trunk into the waves.

A great location to capture some photos of the needle are to the east of the town, near the Notre-Dame de la Garde chapel. There’s plenty of parking here. Close by the carpark is the ‘White Bird’ memorial, a tribute to two French aviators who disappeared in 1927 whilst attempting the first aerial crossing of the North Atlantic from Paris to New York. Here’s an interesting article on that last flight.

Below is a video showcasing the best of Éretat’s coastline – you can easily make out the ‘Needle’.

blue green seas and the white limestone cliffs forming what looks like a needle head on the cliffs of Etretat, Normandy

Étretat, Normandy – Just Wow!

White Bird Memorial in the shape of an aircraft  - Normandy road trip

White Bird Memorial, Étretat, Normandy Road Trip

Normandy Road Trip Day 5: Sotteville-sur-Mer

The white chalk cliffs continue along this poetic coastline but here, near the charming farming village of  Sotteville-sur-Mer, you can access the beach via a concrete stairway carved between the cliffs.  231 steps lead you down to the small pebbly beach that is relentlessly pounded by the Atlantic Ocean.

The steps were used to transport pebbles from the beach up to the Sotteville-sur-Mer so they could be crushed into emery powder. The fishermen used the steps to access their huts along the beach which were carved out of the rock.

Views from Sotteville-sur-Mer

Views from Sotteville-sur-Mer

white limestone cliffs and the sea pounding them from below

Shores below Sottevile-sur-Mer accessed from the stairway

What a fitting way to end our Normandy road trip of this extraordinary coastline with this spectacular sky burst of reds and yellows. Normandy’s farewell to us! 

orange sunset over the water at Sotteville-sur-Mer

 A fitting end to our Normandy road trip with this sunset at Sotteville-sur-Mer

Where to Stay on Your Normandy Road Trip


Normandy Motorhome/ Camper Stops

Normandy Road Trip Accommodation – Travel by Car

 

Booking.com

Normandy Road Trip Car or Motorhome Rental


Motorhome/Campervan Rental

We had hired a campervan through Motorhome Republic who find the best deal for you in whatever country or region you need to hire a van and they have great customer service. So if you are thinking of renting a motorhome, then it’s definitely worth the time to get an online quote here and it’s free.

Here a few of comprehensive articles on motorhome tips for driving in Europe that will certainly help:

  1. Campervanning in Europe
  2. Tips for Motorhoming in Europe
  3. Campervan Accessories

Car Rental

If you are planning on renting a car for your Brittany Road Trip then you check out Rental Cars Connect to find the best deal.

Normandy Road Trip : What You Need to Know about Driving in France

  • In France, you drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • You will need to have the following documents:
    • Drivers licence (An international driver’s licence isn’t required)
    • Vehicle insurance
    • Vehicle registration document
    • Passport
  • You are also required to have the following in your vehicle:
  • If driving in France with a vehicle that has a steering wheel on the right-hand side, then it is likely that the driving lights will require a beam adjustment so that the dipped beam doesn’t dazzle oncoming drivers. The easy way around this is to purchase a set of cheap beam deflectors for the front beams which are stickers that block the light.
  • Many of the motorways have tolls. To avoid them you can program your navigator to avoid tolls and you can also use www.autoroutes.fr to plan your trip and to find out the costs of tolls etc.
  • Speed Limits in France are as follows unless otherwise signposted and on dry roads
    • 130 km/h (80 mph) on toll motorways
    • 110 km/h (68 mph) on dual carriageways and motorways without tolls
    • 80 km/h (50 mph) or 90km/h (55 mph) for single and dual carriageway country roads (it is at the discretion of the local provincial government as to which speed it adopted)
    • 50 km/h (31 mph) in towns. The sign with the town name indicates the start of the speed the limit and when departing, the name has been struck through

Alasbater Coast sunset

 

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